The people of Moore, Oklahoma took another beating by a tornado with winds over 200 mph on Monday afternoon.
Watching news reports and listening to the heart-wrenching (and heart-warming) stories creates a sober gratitude for the safety of our daughters and their families. Even as I woke up this morning to engage my “normal” routine, my thoughts drifted to those reeling from the tornado.
Connecting in the chaos
AP photographer Sue Ogrocki has covered a dozen tornados over the past decade. She wasn’t prepared for what she discovered, she writes…
I expected chaos as I approached the piles of bricks and twisted metal where Plaza Towers Elementary once stood but was surprised by how calm and orderly everything was.
Police and firefighters used bars to try to lift a large chunk of a wall up as they pulled children out one-by-one from underneath. Parents and neighborhood residents stood in a line helping to pass the children from one set of arms to another out of harm’s way.
A little boy was lifted from under the wall and rescuers were going to start passing him to the line of volunteers, but his Dad was there. As the boy called out for him, they were reunited.
Can you imagine the power of Dad’s presence?
Annette Brown is a second-grade teacher at Briarwood Elementary. For some 20 minutes she huddled with her students until metal beams and cinder blocks tumbled in on her. The newspaper reports…
She held the hand of her son — a student at the school — the whole time, despite losing feeling in her arms. She said her thoughts were on the children and keeping them calm.
“I thought we were going to die,” Brown said.
She said the children were “surprisingly calm.” First responders pulled them from the rubble.
Can you imagine the power of Mom’s presence?
Imagine being buried alive … and then, someone showed up to help.
Extreme weather happens in Tornado Alley. When it does, the presence of firefighters, law enforcement, EMSA, and volunteers that helps. It is when a family member, neighbor or an unknown volunteer gives their presence that makes an immediate difference. Recovery begins when someone shows up to be present in the pain, the chaos, and the uncertainty. Your presence is more powerful than the storm.
Even when you are a champion
Watch this historic video of Derek Redmond’s 400m run in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Notice what happens one minute into the short video…
The British runner qualified for the semi-finals by clocking the fastest time in his heat. He was making good speed until his right hamstring snapped … the rest of his field left him behind, bent over in pain.
Then one of the “most memorable moments in Olympic history” occurred.
Redmond got back to his feet and tried to finish the race. In an act of true courage against adversity, Redmond could only hop on one leg towards the finish line. Pain etched on his face as each step became more painful than the last, Redmond would not give up. He had promised himself and his father, that he would finish the race ‘no matter what,’ and he would keep that promise.
On one leg
Half way to the finish line on one leg and crying with desperation, Derek was joined by his father, Jim. The moment Redmond crossed the finish line brought sixty-five thousand spectators to their feet in a standing ovation, many also in tears.
Did you notice the power of presence?
You understand not all of life’s storms are tornados or hurricanes, thunderstorms or snowstorms or ripped hamstrings. Disturbance of “normal” through intensified opposition … we know, that’s part of the human experience.
Yes, people are buried under work, unrealistic expectations, busyness, stress, bitterness, broken relationships, financial pressure and health issues. What do people need in the chaos, pain, and disappointment? What do you want? We need someone who will come alongside and with their presence give strength and the gift of hope.
Sue Ogrocki continued to photograph a children pulled from the rubble in Moore. She writes…
I focused my lens on them. Some of the children looked dazed and others seemed terrified. But they were all alive.
I know students are among those who died in the tornado, but for a moment, there was hope in the devastation.
Leadership is influence. Who needs your presence today? How will you show up?
One on One (55 second video)